By Richard Thomas
Spicebox is one of those new whiskey offerings that seems to be made with more than one eye firmly planted on pleasing the mixology boom. What we have here is a blend of Canadian whiskeys between three and six years old, a blend that includes rye and is made in small batches, and is infused with spices and vanilla beans. Like many a new product (Templeton Rye comes to mind), Spicebox gives a nod to Prohibition era practices, in this case a Canadian bootlegging trick of sneaking whiskey across the border in boxes labeled “spices.”
Spicebox is bottled at 40% abv, and in the glass has a pear juice, pale straw coloring. The nose is an honest one, with a scent strongly suggestive of a whiskey so infused with flavors as to not be especially whiskey-like anymore. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice nose, however. The scent is creamy, rich with vanilla caramel. Unfortunately, that creaminess is disturbed by an astringent bite if you partake too deeply.
The taste is reminiscent of drinking a liquified, liquored-up fruitcake, thick with vanilla and cookie spices as it is, plus a solid note of plum. The spices are a swirl of flavors, but cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are definitely in there. Sadly, Spicebox also has a slight hint of astringency. What’s missing so far is anything I could call truly whiskey-like (except for the astringency, which is a hallmark of a cheap whiskey), since up to the swallow it’s almost more like a rich, spiced rum than anything else. Then comes a lingering warmth, and a finish that leaves behind a thick vanilla caramel aftertaste.
I’m of two minds about Spicebox. As a sipping whiskey, it’s too far removed from anything I would drink neat to consider a success. The infusion has carried it far from the flavor profile any reasonable whiskey lover might expect. However, in doing that, I have to admit it’s not bad stuff, kind of like drinking liqueur. So the whiskey receives its C-grade from the point of view of something that isn’t whiskey, but instead is something else based on whiskey. In addition to using it for mixers and cocktails, you might offer it to someone who doesn’t ordinarily like whiskey.
Another virtue of Spicebox is how cheap it is: $19 or $20 a bottle.